Why We Must Keep Talking About the Detention of Migrant Children

This summer, one of the most hot button topics discussed in communities and covered in the media was the separation and detention of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Americans on all sides were appalled and roused to action at the news of over 2,500 migrant children being separated from their parents and housed in federal detention centers and shelters across the country. Trump's zero-tolerance border policy has burdened federal shelters near capacity and forced less humane conditions and large makeshift centers out of former stores and storage centers. Children separated from their families and detained are younger and more susceptible to trauma than centers are used to managing. Even worse, normally, unaccompanied children are placed to live with sponsor families that have been chosen as safe homes by the federal government, but stricter measures and vetting processes have caused fewer families to come forward to sponsor children, as many sponsors are likely to be undocumented themselves. This has slowed the process tremendously and caused children to be detained for longer periods of time without plans for discharge.

This summer, I attended a rally at the federal detention center in SeaTac protesting the zero-tolerance policy that has allowed for these conditions. I stood among hundreds of determined protestors as we sang, marched, and chanted loud enough for the detainees to hear us. Where did this compassion go? 

Although the news media has mostly dropped the topic from front pages and headlines, the issue is more dire than ever, and detained migrant children need our attention. As of November 15, 14,030 children live in federal detention centers across the U.S., and many of these children came to the U.S. alone. 

14000 children spent Thanksgiving in detention. The U.S. government sees these children as lawbreakers for crossing the border illegally. What many others see are children who have fled unimaginable conditions of violence in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and other Central American countries, often alone, because facing detention in the U.S. is the safer option. 

There is so much more to this issue than partisan politics—and we need to keep talking about it if anything is ever going to change.